Cousin Bette

Obsession in I[Cousin Bette]

Honore De Balzac's Cousin Bette is a novel about obsession, but what makes the premise so fantastic is the manner in which each obsession is related to the others. The characters are obsessed with art, but the bourgeois universe of post-Napoleonic Paris is unoriginal. The middle class do not spend their money on beautiful things anymore. The middle class hoards money, and what is spent is spent on shabby recreations of great art - pieces that these individuals believe will bring them the appearance of status. In the French middle class everything has become a copy of something that was already a copy. There is no originality in everyday life.

When copying is regularly practiced, there is no appreciation for the work and sweat that a true artist puts into a single painting or sculpture. That is where the true "art" is - in the work put into an original piece, not simply in the aesthetic appearance of a piece of art. When the prince wants the mold for Wenseslas' clock destroyed, it is because he values what is unique. He values the way the artist held the clock as he made it, and turned it in his hands as though it were worth something. Most of all, he values its originality. The bourgeois society is...

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